Dental Care

Tooth Decay And Preventive Care

Is tooth decay inevitable? A dazzling smile is the aspiration of everyone young and old.

Quite rightly the beautiful smile is considered the symbol of health and happiness. Oral and dental health, are closely linked to overall health.

Teeth decay is an enemy of the bright healthy smile and beautiful teeth. Fortunately dental caries can be treated before decay causes complications and ruins that beautiful smile.

Fluoride in the water can help reduce demineralization in teeth and increase remineralization rates. New preventative treatments and preventative coatings for the teeth can help prevent dental caries by keeping food from sticking and providing food for the bacteria that cause dental caries.

Teeth decay is also known as dental caries and is considered a disease process which left unchecked can result in holes in the teeth, pain, infection and even tooth loss.

The bacteria responsible for tooth decay are Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacillus and present normally in the mouth. Globally, tooth decay is one of the most common diseases.

Materials and Parts

Teeth are made up mostly from tissue high in minerals called tooth enamel, dentin and cementum. These calcified tissues can be damaged by the waste produced by the bacteria in the mouth.

Eventually enough of the calcified tooth tissues can be worn away in a process called demineralization to produce a hole in the tooth. 

The process of demineralization is not usually fast, but once it begins it must be treated or the disease progresses. This is one reason that regular dental checkups are important.

While the exterior of each tooth is highly calcified tissue and has no nerve endings the center of the tooth is another matter entirely. The center of the tooth is called the pulp tissue and this tissue is nerve filled and very soft.

The Process of Decay

Dental caries starts on the exterior of the tooth and may be painless at first.

Sometimes the first signs of caries are a chalky looking white spot on a tooth. The chalky spot is where the process of demineralization has begun and eventually if left unchecked will work its way to the nerve filled pulp.

As teeth decay advances it can cause pain and possibly infection, tooth loss and in extreme cases tooth decay and the subsequent complications and systemic infection.

To understand just how dental caries takes hold and the damage it does, one needs to understand just a little about what makes up a tooth and just how sturdy and yet vulnerable teeth are.

Most of the exterior surface of a tooth is comprised of enamel which is some of the hardest tissue the body produces.

The crown of each tooth and the bulk of the interior are made of dentin which although hard, is softer than enamel. This dentin is covered on top by a layer of enamel.

Inside the tooth a soft area called the pulp is lined by a substance called cementum. The purpose of this very thin layer of hard tissue is to provide a surface to bind the ligament that holds each tooth in its socket. 

Dental Caries and Age Groups

With so many layers of defense it would almost seem that teeth are invulnerable to disease, but the truth is that the conditions in the mouth can breed bacteria which can breech these defenses.

We will go into exactly how and why teeth decay happens a little further on.  However suffice to say that not only is teeth decay unsightly it can affect overall nutrition and health and can be prevented or treated with regular dental care.

Children can just as easily develop dental caries as older persons and very young children may have problems adequately cleaning their teeth to help remove the bacteria that can cause tooth decay.

Elderly persons may suffer from a general wearing away of dentin caused by the natural aging process and this can result in treatable dental problems including tooth decay. 

The very structure of the tooth can cause it become a breeding ground for the bacteria that causes dental caries especially if the surfaces are not cleaned thoroughly.

Healthy adults who lead busy lives may not brush properly after each meal or eat meals high in carbohydrates which the bacteria which cause teeth decay feed upon.

What is all too seldom fully understood is that you don not have to wait until the symptoms of a decaying tooth are apparent.

Every age group is subject to tooth decay and from the young child with their first teeth to the older person, prevention is the key. 

Simply preventing tooth decay with good oral hygiene is far better than attempting to reverse the process afterwards.


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